CONTEXT IS FOR KINGS
Called the actual pilot of the show, Star Trek: Discovery Season 1 Episode 3 : Context Is For Kings was quite the thrill ride. After life imprisonment ruling by Starfleet, Burnham chances upon the USS Discovery after an unusual incident aboard her transport to a prison.
- Michael Burnham
- Commander Saru
- Captain Lorca
- Commander Landry
- Paul Stamets
- Cadet Sylvia
- Keyla Detmer
- Discovery Computer
- Director: Akiva Goldsman
- Teleplay : Gretchen J. Berg, Aaron Harbets and Craig Sweeny
- Story: Bryan Fuller, Gretchen J. Berg and Aaron Harbets
- Cinematography: Darran Tiernan
- Aired October 1, 2017
Michael Burnham is transported through space on a prison shuttle after her six month court-martial. She is to arrive at a prison facility to serve her life imprisonment sentence. On the way, tiny electricity sapping organisms, GS54, attach themselves to the transport endangering the detainees. When her tether breaks after trying to correct the problem, the pilot dies leaving the prisoners to fight for themselves. Enter USS Discovery. Tractor beaming the transport, the USS Discovery secures the transport. But this is only a ruse to get to Michael Burnham.
Leading the prisoners into the mess hall, Commander Landry tests Burnham setting her in a volatile situation so that Burnham has to defend herself using the Vulcan martial arts suus mahna against the other prisoners. Landry even halts a Starfleet officer from rescuing her. After Burnham’s success, Landry rushes her off to Captain Lorca. There she is told she will work on board the USS Discovery. Lorca needs her help on a science project and her talents would be a waste if not used for this opportunity. Otherwise she is confined to quarters.
In her new quarters, Burnham acquaints herself with her new roommate Cadet Tilly who is initially happy to have a roommate since she was told she could not have one. Tilly admits to having special needs and space so she originally was bunked by herself. Later Tilly identifies her new roommate as the infamous mutineer Michael Burnham. So Tilly refuses to inform Burnham of the Black alerts even with floating condensation momentarily materializes.
Lorca and the crew learn all hands are dead on the USS Glenn. Stamets, the astromycologist addressed his colleague, Straal, on board the USS Glenn about their top secret project, and Laundry are ordered to take an away team to the ghost ship and retrieve the classified “mechanism.” Lt. Stamets and Straal were working on a science project before the war and of course he blames Burnham for the war and his new job. Burnham at that time in the engineering performing her task to correct Stamets calculations when Stamets and Straal were discussing the project. So Lorca wants Lt. Stamets to haul Burnham along with them.
USS Glenn is dark, has malfunctioning doors. Klingon bodies mutilated on the floor and they spot a Klingon in the shadows. Cadet Tilly commands the Klingon to show himself and he does. He then shushes her. All of a sudden a monster mauls the Klingon and yanks him backward into the darkness. The away team hustles to engineering to collect the “super secret mechanism.”
While the away team works on a way to escape the USS Glenn, the monster draws near. Burnham buys time for the team by drawing the monster away. She crawls into the Jefferies tubes with the monster hot in pursuit. Quoting Alice In Wonderland to pacify her nerves and ours, she finally dives through an exit door into the shuttle and away from the monster.
Burnham meets Commander Saru in the corridors and tells him goodbye since she will be leaving soon with the prisoner transport. However arriving to meet the captain, he offers Burnham a place on Discovery to help him discover a new propulsion system to end the war with the Klingons. Lorca also applauds Burnham for her courage helping her comrades on the USS Glenn. She agrees to stay.
In her new room, Burnham gives Tilly the book Alice In Wonderland that her guardian Amanda Grayson read to her on Vulcan. Tilly confuses her dream to become a starship captain one day and wants Burnham’s help to mentor her.
Landry beams the monster onto the USS Discovery for Lorca.
THEMES AND OTHER LITERARY DEVICES
I am always wrong about this but here is what I believe. The Tractor beam is again a motif to describe salvation. Burnham is saved from her fate of life imprisonment. The light from the USS Discovery’s tractor beam is heavenly. If you remember, it is a continuation of a motif of the tractor beam from the USS Europa in the second episode “Battle At The Binary Stars” that saved the USS Discovery from an asteroid.
Next is the Burnham-Landry paradox, morals vs laws. This could be a really great match-up between the fine line of what is right to do and what is allowable. To me Burnham represents moral beliefs. She acted upon a belief that the Klingons understand aggression and the only way to prevent a war is a forceful act that worked before with the Vulcans to establish peaceful relations. If this act is the only way to stop a war then it does not matter that it is against Starfleet law. Starfleet’s law is to never fire first. Burnham’s attempt is communication not starting a war.
Landry is the ship’s security officer. She is the law on board. As the law, it only matters that you break the law the reasoning usually is not important.
Lately, Burnham has been breaking the law without stating a reason so this should be a good heads to head match up between the two of them. Do you do what is lawful or do you do what is right?
Laws are the pillars and morals are the roof . If the rules we use to uphold our morals are not useful is it okay to throw away the laws in this instance to keep our beliefs? Hmmmm.
Meanwhile, Lorca, I don’t trust. When he explains “Universal laws are for lackeys. Context is for kings,” he believes Burnham’s thinking wins wars. He wants someone like that on his ship.
But I don’t believe this. I believe someone in Starfleet or the Federation likes Burnham’s thinking. Someone in Starfleet or the Federations understands Burnham’s actions and wants her on the front lines. She served her penance now it’s time to get back t work. Lorca compares himself and Burnham to kings. This may be a wink at the book “The Captain and The Kings.” I don’t know if you can find the original version but Amazon sells the book in paperback for $26. Lorca thinks himself a king. Burnham essentially is.
Tilly wants a mentor like Burnham just as Burnham found a mentor in Georgiou. This relationship could be a parallel the to Burnham/Georgiou since Tilly has a problem with adapting to social structure as the orphaned Burnham did reintegrating into human society on board the Shenzhou.
“Alice In Wonderland” is revealed as the allusion in Star Trek: Discovery and it paid off dividends. The main character Alice is believed to be about seven years old at the time of her story and Burnham spent seven years “growing up” on the Shenzhou. This may be a coincidence. They both are curious when it comes to their environments. Convinced the world is orderly and stable, Burnham admits at times “the world does not always adhere to logic.” Authority, time, and death riddle both of these young women during their request for self-identity.
The connections could be sparse. However, Burnham quotes passages from “Alice In Wonderland” with her deep beautiful voice in the Jefferies tubes. She hands the novel to Cadet Tilly when Tilly observes Burnham unpacking it with the rest of her belongings. Now, I can piece together Burnham falling through holes of space like in “Battle At The Binary Stars” when she escaped the Brig rocketing through space momentarily to an undamaged corridor or jumping through the exit doors off the USS Glenn through space momentarily and into the shuttle craft after being chased by the monster. These instances directly reference Alice “tumbling down the rabbit hole.” To me it makes sense. I just wonder who is the white rabbit, the Mad Hatter, the Queen of Hearts, the Cheshire Cat, the caterpillar, the Mad Hatter, the Dormouse, the Queen of Hearts….
Excellent performance by “The Walking Dead” star Sonequa-Martin Green. Doug Jones was not far behind her in that category. Besides Gretchen J. Berg and Aaron Harbets, Craig Sweeny added to his teleplay expertise. Sweeny has written for “Elementary.” Akiva Goldsman directed his first Trek installment. Known for his works “Batman Forever,” starring Val Kilmer and “I Am Legend” with Will Smith. His most notable fame is an Academy Award for Best Screenplay of the movie “A Beautiful Mind” starring Russel Crowe.
The lighting for the USS Glenn was outstanding. The malfunctioning doors added to the spooky, gloomy atmosphere of the ship. The shushing Klingon was a humorous highlight. Lorca’s line “Context is for kings” subtly underlined his moral standards.
All in all, another great episode from Star Trek: Discovery. Keep up the good work.
Another excellent episode of Star Trek: Discovery: Season 1 Episode 3: Context Is For King. Discovery has exceeded expectations with the online streaming service and is on course to become the greatest series in CBS online streaming franchise.
Next week is the episode “The Butcher’s Knife Cares Not For the Lamb’s Cry.” You can catch this episode on CBS All Access online streaming service Sundays at 8:30 pm EST/7:30 CST.